John Calvin Pitts was born in McNairy County, Tennessee. The Battle of Shiloh was fought in Hardin County, with McNairy County being the adjoining county to the west of Hardin County. The story goes that Pitts was conscripted/drafted into the Confederate Army, but deserted. Many of the people in Hardin and McNairy counties held Union sentiments. With the Federal Army concentrating at Pittsburg Landing, men from surrounding counties came to join the Federal Army. Many of the locals from McNairy and Hardin counties joined the 46th Ohio Infantry, and this is exactly what Pitts did. He fought with the 46th at the Battle of Shiloh.
Later in the war while in Georgia, Pitts was shot in the face by friendly fire on 28 November 1864. He ended up losing 17 teeth and spent the remainder of the war in various hospitals until he was discharged at Camp Dennison, Ohio on 26 May 1865.
Pitts came back to Tennessee, where he lived until his death near Finger, McNairy County, Tennessee in 1923 (Finger, Tennessee is also where famed lawman Buford Pusser was born). The story goes that Pitts grew his long beard and mustache to cover his wound and scars as he was also missing part of his lip.